Israel's health data suggests Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may be more effective than we thought
A Israeli healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine to a woman at the Kupat Holim Clalit clinic in Jerusalem, on January 14 Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
New data from the Israel’s Ministry of Health suggests the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines may be even more effective than previously thought.
The data, which looked at more than 700,000 fully vaccinated people in Israel, found that only .04 percent of people contracted Covid-19, according to the head of Israel’s Ministry of Health, Dr. Sharon Alroy Preis at a press conference on Thursday.
The type of vaccine Israel has mostly used is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with a small number of doses from Moderna. The two vaccines use the same technology, and in clinical trials were found to be about 95% effective.
Israel began its vaccination campaign on December 20. The data released Thursday looked at 715,425 vaccinated people who were at least one week past their second dose, giving the vaccines time to kick in and provide immunity. Of those people, only 317 people became sick with Covid-19 and 16 people were hospitalized.
The data sampled many more people than the Pfizer and Moderna Phase 3 clinical trials. Approximately 75,000 people participated in those trials, with half receiving the vaccine and half receiving a placebo.
The two vaccines have been rolled out in several countries including the US, Canada and some European nations. The UK was the first country in the world to inoculate patients with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in December last year.
A monument depicting the Olympic rings is seen in front of Tokyo's National Stadium, the main venue for the Olympics and Paralympics, in January 2020. Kyodo News via Getty Images
In between a surging pandemic and a global scramble for vaccines, the fate of this year's Olympic Games has become shrouded in uncertainty.
Last November, three weeks before the first vaccine doses became publicly available in the United Kingdom, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said he was hopeful an effective vaccine would help the Games to proceed safely.
Fast-forward to January 2021 and organizers may not be able to rely on vaccine rollout in the way they might have hoped as delivery delays have hindered the rollout process, particularly across Europe.
"I think a lot of people had this vested belief that once the vaccine started to roll out, that would really spell the end of Covid and what we would see is that transmission rates would start to plummet, things would get more controlled and we would have some ability to go back to a more normal lifestyle," Jason Kindrachuk, an infectious disease expert at the University of Manitoba in Canada, tells CNN Sport.
"The fact is that even with good vaccine rollouts in a number of regions of the world, we're having trouble getting a hold on transmission."
Bolivia receives first batch of Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines from Russia
From CNN's Eric Cheung
Bolivia has received its first batch of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia, making it the second country in Latin America to use the Russian-made vaccine in its fight against Covid-19, the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.
The shipment, which totaled 20,000 vaccine doses, arrived in Bolivia's capital La Paz on Thursday, the ministry said in a statement.
On December 30, Russia signed an agreement with Bolivia to provide the South American nation with enough doses of Sputnik V for 2.6 million people.
Some context: Argentina was the first country in Latin America to administer the use of Sputnik V vaccines, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Argentina began inoculating its citizens with Sputnik V in late December, according to its President Alberto Fernandez.
Several Latin America countries have also reached agreements with Russia to import the vaccine. On Tuesday, Mexico said the Sputnik V vaccine will be delivered to the country "soon,” while Venezuela also formalized an agreement with Russia to purchase it in late December.
Pakistan is one of 92 lower-income countries eligible for free vaccines from COVAX. Another 98 wealthier countries will also purchase doses through the organization, using it as a middle man to streamline negotiations with vaccine makers -- and to prevent vaccine nationalism.
The concept of vaccine nationalism has become a significant global concern, highlighted by the ongoing public spat between the European Union and British-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca, which recently informed the bloc it would not be able to supply the number of vaccines the EU had hoped for by the end of March. EU leaders are furious the company appears to be fulfilling its deliveries for the UK market and not theirs.
"I think we can expect that it's not going to be all smooth sailing, as the vaccine manufacturing is scaled up and distribution happens," Nguyen said. "I think it's important for everyone to be able to be accountable to the commitments that they've made."
Nguyen said it was inevitable that initial vaccine demand would outstrip supply. "This is exactly the reason why COVAX was created, to avoid a bidding war for vaccines," she added.
"Without concerted effort, lower-income countries will be left behind because of the restrictions of their financial capabilities to be able to buy vaccines."
COVAX has so far raised $6 billion from wealthier countries and other organizations, including a giant injection of $4 billion from the US, approved by Congress in December. The Biden administration also announced it would join the global initiative.
"That's been a hugely welcome move on the part of the Biden-Harris administration," Nguyen said. "I think it's a very strong endorsement of the COVAX facility, of the aim to have a global and multilateral approach to fair and equitable access for Covid-19 vaccines."
Vaccinating 20% of people in the world's poorest countries, however, won't be enough to help their populations reach herd immunity. Although COVAX plans to expand the program for as long as it is needed, analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests huge swathes of Asia and Africa will not see widespread availability of Covid-19 vaccines until 2022 or 2023.
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